I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What?

About two weeks ago, I was having a phone conversation with a new friend of mine. The conversation did not end well, and that was because they had said that “I need to learn how to control my emotions,” in response to me getting emotional on the phone as I was trying to explain to them my thoughts and feelings about a previous conversation we had, had. I don’t even remember what I was trying to tell them anymore because all of that got erased the second they told me that my crying was making them feel uncomfortable and that I need to learn how to control my emotions. To be fair, now that I’ve had more time to reflect on that conversation, I don’t think they were trying to be malicious in their response to my emotions. However, the damage was done. It’s fair that crying may make someone feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you should have to hide your emotions and your feelings just because it makes someone else feel uncomfortable. This is something that has taken me a long time to learn.

The second they had told me to control my emotions the conversation, and I had completely shut down. I stopped crying and said, “I’m sorry that my crying is making you feel uncomfortable, but I have a lot of really good friends who don’t mind me or my crying. So this conversation is over. Especially since I’ve told you that I have not been able to fully express my feelings, and that I’ve actually repressed and denied a lot of my pain for a really long time.” Looking back, I regret apologizing for making them feel uncomfortable. I guess I’m so used to apologizing for being myself. I cry. I’m emotional. I wear my heart on my sleeve. So What? At least it’s honest. I’m done repressing my emotions, and my pain in order to make someone feel more comfortable being around me. I haven’t really talked to this friend ever since. It’s not that I hate this person, there is the occasional text but I know that they can no longer be the friend that I need. They cannot support me in the way I need. My feelings, my crying is NOT THE PROBLEM! I’m not a psychologist but I do know that them feeling uncomfortable and then projecting their discomfort on to me, and making me out to be the problem is actually about them. They have some repressed emotions, whether they be anger or sadness, whatever, and me expressing those types of emotions reminds them of their own unhappiness. I was mirroring the parts of their self-hood that they did not want to see. It’s cool. Like I said, I have plenty of other healthy outlets for me to express myself.

This message is for everyone and anyone, girl, boy, whatever. Don’t be afraid to express yourself in any way that feels authentic to you. I know this is easier said than done, but it is so important. I’ve realized that the more I tried to hide my depression, hold my tears back, deny my anger, and my sadness the bigger it became. My sadness, and guilt got so big that it spilled over into uncontrollable tears this past New Years Eve. By denying my feelings, and holding back my emotions I turned into an emotional mess. I became a sad, sad person. Someone who now would cry very easily (not that I didn’t cry easily before) but it wasn’t as often. I literally couldn’t stop myself on New Years Eve. Who was that girl? I have no idea. I mean it was me, but I became someone I could hardly recognize because I was repressing a big part of who I am. I have always been an emotional and intuitive person. There have been times where I would own this part of myself proudly. Those were the happiest times for me. I feel like that was when I was living more authentically. I was emotional, but I wasn’t sad.

Now, I’m relearning how important it is to feel all your feelings. Let them out in a way that is healthy and productive. If you need to cry,? Then fucking cry. If you’re angry? Then find a way to express that anger. Maybe you need to blow off some steam, go for a run or workout. Maybe you write an angry letter and then burn it. It is a lot less damaging to release your negative emotions then to repress them and bury them deep. Doing this only leads to more destructive behavior. Trust me. I’ve seen it in myself, and in some of my close friends. You put on a strong front, act like everything is fine, because deep down that’s all you really want. All we really want in life is to feel safe, happy, and loved. When we don’t feel safe to be ourselves, we do bad things to ourselves and to others. Our pain manifests in violence against ourselves or others, self-medicating, emotional eating, eating disorders, the list goes on. We see this all the time with ourselves, our friends, celebrities. EVERYONE DOES THIS. It is only human to have emotions and feelings. They are not bad. Being angry or sad is not bad. It’s not fun, but it’s life. When we feel this way, we just want to be heard. We want to know that how we’re feeling is okay, and that we’re going to be okay. That’s literally what EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON THIS EARTH WANTS! I really do think that we would be healthier as humans if we allowed ourselves and others to express their emotions and feelings in a way that is healthy and productive. A lot of the violence, and pain that we experience in this world would be reduced if we were allowed to talk openly about anything and everything. However, that is not the case. I’m hopeful that one day we might reach that point, but in the mean time the best thing we can do is to make each other feel safe. To listen openly and honestly to our friends and family. To give each other the love that any human deserves. When we feel loved and safe we are capable of doing amazing things for ourselves and for others.

Growing up, I’ve been teased for my emotions. I would try to hide my tears even though I did a very bad job of this. I would turn my face away from people and cry silently by myself. You’d be surprised how much what your parents, teachers, and other kids say to you effects you. I was told by one of my grade eight teachers (who was a woman) that my emotions would be seen as a weakness by other people and I should learn how to manage them. A lot of people believe this. That crying is weak, and that is should be done in privacy. I’ve been told my whole life that “I’m too sensitive,” or that “I care too much.” I’ve definitely internalized these things and believed them to a certain degree. Enough for me to feel the need to hide my feelings, my emotions, and the negative things that have happened to me in order to have other people feel safe around me. This was the most damaging thing I ever did to myself. It’s a lot of work to constantly pretend that everything is okay, and really it’s a waste of time. People can eventually see right through your feeble attempts to be someone you’re not. So why bother? I’m done. I’m tired. That time and energy I’ve started to redirect to myself, and my own well being. I’m learning to see the power and strength behind my sensitivity, emotions, and intuition. Some of the most beautiful pieces of music, art, dance, whatever, comes from real, raw emotions. There is power in being honest, their is bravery in being yourself and expressing every part of you, even the parts that make you feel uncomfortable. That’s how you grow. When you allow yourself to be yourself, to feel all the feelings, and to live in the moment, that is when you are the happiest. They say happiness is a choice, and I agree. However, it is much easier to make the choice to be happy when you’re able to fully express all of your other emotions too. I’m a much happier person now then I was at the beginning of 2018, and that’s because I’ve found ways to express my feelings and emotions in a healthy and productive way. I’ve found a way to be more honest with myself and with others. I do feel like I’m living a fuller life now then I was in the past. I don’t have much more material things, or a ton of new friends, but because I’ve stopped fighting myself, I have a lot more energy to focus on the things that do make me happy. I put my feelings, my emotions, my heart into my work, my blog, my journal, my food, my workouts, my solo dance numbers in the comfort of my home, my casual showers singing, my yoga practice, into me. I’ve been opening my heart up slowly but surely and I think it’s paying off.

A selfie of Alexandra Rinaldo without makeup


Trust Yourself, Trust the Process, the Results Will Come

Originally I wanted to talk about my fitness career and how it has evolved over time to the place where I am now. However, once I started writing this piece I realized that really it’s about how I equated my career with my self-worth. I have never truly admitted this to anyone, and it’s funny how I’m posting it online, but for some reason this just feels right, so I’m not going to question it. I’m sure some of my loved ones already know what I’m about to say because I’ve been circling around it for a while now, but I have been dealing with depression. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this. It’s been really hard for me to admit, and I’ve been trying to fight it as hard as I can on my own but I know now that, that isn’t getting me very far. I do believe that depression is a very personal battle, one that you can only truly overcome on your own. However, not talking about it, or not talking about your fears only makes things harder. It’s like trying to climb a mountain with rocks in your backpack instead of food and water. And man, I’m tired. I’m done fighting alone. I think I knew that this piece was coming, I think I knew in my heart I had to write this, but I could only write it when I was ready. Hence the almost two-week break from my last piece.

I’ve realized that my biggest fears and my greatest joys surround fitness and my career (my career is in fitness) so really they are one in the same. It is very much my personality to always want to be surrounded by loads of people. I am highly extroverted and I’ve never really liked being on my own, until recently. I also have a tendency to respond more readily to outside expectations rather than expectations that I have placed upon myself. I am always the dependable friend who you can call on any time of day and I will be there for you 110%. I think that is why I love my job so much. It is so easy for me to think of others first, and to readily respond to their needs first. This is not to say that I don’t ever do what I want, but for the most part what I want is what others want. These are some of my greatest strengths but they have also been a hindrance for me, because they were always the easy thing for me to do. These things made it easier for me to pretend that everything was fine in my life, and to not tackle the things in my life that worried me the most. It was easier for me to focus on others, a coping mechanism if you will. I knew and/or believed that others needed me, so therefore I had to be the “strong one.” At least this was the expectation I placed upon myself. I didn’t want to burden others with what I was feeling or going through so I didn’t talk about it much, or at least not to the detail I would have liked. I am the type of person that feels this need to be brutally honest about everything. I need to talk about everything, but for some reason there were many things that I had a very hard time talking about. This was foreign to me and it never really made me feel good. But now the “strong one,” feels left behind. It’s no one’s fault, and that I guess is the hardest pill to swallow. It’s really hard when you’ve found yourself in a bad place, a place that you never thought you would be, and then to look back on your life and the decisions you made without shame, guilt, or regret. It’s really hard to not punish yourself, and make yourself feel small. However, what I do know for a fact is that when you find yourself in this place, a place that you no longer want to call home. A place where your fears are big (real or imagined) this is the time where you need to build yourself up. This is the time where you need to be brave. Because you will never free yourself of the regret, guilt, and shame if you don’t forgive yourself first. You did your best with the knowledge you had. Now you know better because you are in a place you never wanted to be in the first place. It is really hard to not take this personally because it is very personal. It’s your life!!! But crying, wallowing, and making yourself feel small will not make these problems go away. If anything they will continue to fester and grow.

I made the decision to be brave this past September. That is when it truly dawned on me that I can no longer live my life the way I was, something had to change. I realized that the way I was living was bringing me nowhere near the life I always wanted. I needed to take a step back and refocus myself onto myself. I needed to take the time to heal, and to realign myself with my core values, with the things that brought me the most joy, with the things that made me feel the most like myself. It started off small. I started to cut out habits that I had formed as a way of distracting myself from my worries and my pain. I then started to get myself to do more fitness classes with my friends, and I even started running outside (in the winter) with my friends. A task I truly hated because I am a terrible runner, let alone running in the cold. But I also enjoyed it because it got me moving. I felt great after every run, and I was so proud of myself for even trying. I also started to really clean up my diet during this time. I really started to eat more vegetarian. I don’t know it just feels right to me.

Eventually, my healing process lead me to make a soul map. This was a powerful tool for me, and it really helped me to put a lot of my thoughts into perspective. My weekend in Collingwood for New Years with my closest friends was the tipping point for me. It was the point where I could no longer hold my bottled up emotions in and they spilled out uncontrollably. Not my finest hour, but I’m so glad it happened. Because it opened up the flood gates and it was really the catalyst to my healing. Ever since that day I have been making a conscious effort towards my healing every single day. I journal, read, meditate, sing and dance, listen to podcasts, do yoga, eat the best I can, and so on every single day. It is because of all this I have been able to face my fears, to be honest with myself, and ultimately honest with everyone else. It is a big reason why these past few blog pieces have been so deep. It just feels right. I’m doing this for me, putting it online, and into the world is so therapeutic to me because the second I hit the publish button it is no longer in my control. By posting it I am surrendering to whatever happens. Not only is that super scary but it is also so comforting too. It’s weird. I’ve noticed that with my last two pieces, yes they drained me emotionally, physically, and mentally to produce, but at the same time they gave me so much energy and happiness. I have not reread them. I might one day, but for now I don’t feel the need to. Also, the song I’ll be missing you by P Diddy and Faith Evans no longer makes me cry. I know that talking openly about my depression will free me from it. Maybe not right away, but it no longer has so much control over me anymore. Even just typing about it at the beginning of this post was such a release. So much so, that I’m not emotional anymore about it (right now at least). I do feel that I can now speak in person to people about my depression and actually call it what it is. It doesn’t scare me anymore because now it has a name.

It has been really hard for me to allow myself to feel the things I need to feel. I’ve been fighting it for so long. I’m naturally an annoyingly positive person and I guess part of me thought that if I allowed myself to openly feel the negative things I was feeling I would no longer be that positive person. I now know that, that isn’t true. How do I know that? Well for starters, just because you aren’t being completely open about your pain doesn’t mean that other people can’t sense it, and no matter how fast you try to outrun your feelings they will always be there. Because you can’t outrun your feelings. If your life is out of alignment with who you truly are (and not who you think you are aka your ego) the universe will constantly remind you. The universe will keep smacking you down until you’ve finally had enough; until you can finally surrender and let it be.

I always knew that fitness and the gym was such a great metaphor for life. It really, really is and I don’t care about how corny it makes me sound. First of all, one phrase that my coach would always say to me when I was training for my bodybuilding shows was “trust the process.” I will never forget it. I fully trusted the process when it came to my bodybuilding training and I followed his guidelines to a tee! I did EVERYTHING HE SAID AS BEST I COULD and I knew that the rest would follow. I knew that if I put in the work, the results would show, and well… It worked! Man, I went from 8th place Bikini in November 2014 to second place Figure in 11 months! I look back and it makes me laugh that I had so much trust in myself, my coach, and the process when it came to bodybuilding but I had a hard time applying that trust to myself when it came to my career. It makes me sad that I allowed the negative experiences in my career that I came across post university to have me questioning myself, and the process. It’s a trap! It’s really hard to not take events that happen in your life, especially negative events, personally. It’s really hard to separate yourself from the bad job, or bad boss, or the fact that you’re not making any money. I’ve experienced all of those things trying to “make it” in the fitness industry. I always knew this was my calling, but I didn’t realize how challenging it was going to be. Instead of taking these experiences as lessons, and motivations to work harder to get past the grunt work and into the light, I allowed myself to become arrogant. I allowed myself to become a victim of circumstance, and because I was thinking of myself as a victim, all the terrible things were happening to me. In my mind, I wasn’t doing it to myself but rather life was doing it to me. I was thinking that I should be farther along in my career, not realizing just how much work is involved to really “make it” in any career, let alone my own. For some unknown reason I thought I deserved more than what I was getting. I’m re-learning that things don’t just come to you. I’ve always known that, but sometimes when you think that life has gotten the best of you, it’s hard to see through the fog of your own mind. Like I said before, put in the work and trust the process, the results will come. The more clear your are with your outcome, and you have aligned everything in your life with that outcome, eventually you will succeed. I’ve been there, done that, and here I am doing it again. I’ll be doing this process again and again for the rest of my life. The only positive is that I know what it’s like when you don’t trust yourself and the process, and I don’t ever want to feel that again. I can’t promise that I never will, but because I’ve learned it once before, it will be easier in the future to keep the faith.

The second major gym metaphor/lesson that I’ve learned is that failure is good, and if anything its welcome. The only difference is, failure in the gym doesn’t hurt as much. I mean it hurts! But in more of a physical sense, it BURNS!!! But it doesn’t have a lasting emotional and mental pain that failure can have in real life if you allow it to. Failure is essential to your physical fitness. You need to fail in order to fully understand where your fitness ability lies. You will never know how much you can physically do until you do it until failure. That’s when you know where your physical breaking point is, and you can only build from there. Literally, your muscle’s potential for growth if you do an exercise to failure is exponential! Getting to failure in the gym is HARD! It hurts A LOT! And the whole time your brain is screaming MAKE IT STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE!!! Man, I remember my coach would make me do bicep curls until I physically couldn’t curl anymore. Then he would help me get to a static bicep curl hold and make me hold the bicep curl until my arms fell limp. Like noodles. They would just fall and I couldn’t stop it. He was like “you’re not done until you can no longer physically curl your arm.” Damn… most people don’t get there. I did, several times. It hurt so much, but at the same time it felt oh so good! Why? Well, first of all it was over! Thank God! The pain was over, and all the was left was this feeling of exhaustion and accomplishment. Holy shit! I’ve never pushed myself so hard in my life and it feels so good! Now, apply that to your life. Sounds simple right? Nope it’s not. It hurts a lot. I would argue that it hurts more. If you fail in real life it’s not just you who may feel the impact of your failures and that sucks. However, what I’ve come to understand is that failures and obstacles are brought into your life because you were meant to overcome them. And they will keep manifesting in your life until you learn to overcome them. They are lessons. It is when your fighting through the pain, the fears, this is where you have the highest potential for growth. Failure informs you of what you’re capable of, the same way failure in the gym does. It took me some time to really understand this. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone and risk failure, the more potential you have to grow. I see that now. It’s hard, and I’m still working through it but if you truly want to have an exceptional life full of purpose, you need to fail. Failure is good, and it is welcome, a new mantra to live by.

There was a full paragraph that I edited out where I was outlining the points in my life where my depression was the most apparent. I was describing the times where I wasn’t writing my blog regularly, working out regularly, etc. I’ve realized that no one cares, and I don’t need to prove to anyone that I am no longer living that way, so I deleted it. Happiness, success, love, they all speak for themselves. These are all the things I will forever be working towards. To me happiness is balance, and what I’ve learned recently is that balance is a verb and not a noun. You must always practice balance, because the second you think you have balance, you’ve lost it and you need to find it again. I’m proud of myself for the progress I’ve made, and I know that my depression does not define me. I know that even though I’ve been suffering from depression, I’m still a positive person. I’m still here, fighting through the pain, and trusting the process, the results will come.

 

 

 


My Quest For Happiness; A Reflection of The Past Month

About a week ago was February 1st, the beginning of the month, and it was also Groundhog Day. You might be asking yourself, who cares? Trust me, I feel you; who cares about Groundhog Day? It does seem like a very pointless holiday, however, it helped me piece together all of the things I’ve been learning this month through practicing mindfulness, or presence if you will (yoga, meditation, and writing a personal journal), and through my quest for happiness, which I will now change to my quest for balance. How did this holiday inspire my writing of this piece? Well, I remembered the movie Groundhog Day (1993) starring Bill Murray. This is a very funny movie, that I watched a long time ago with my Dad. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it, but basically the take away lesson of the movie is this; if you don’t learn from your mistakes you are doomed to repeat them. As they say, history always repeats itself, but I’m here to say that it doesn’t have to. In the movie Bill’s character gets stuck reliving Groundhog Day over and over again, and he is the only one conscious of this phenomenon. So he is stuck in his own personal hell, until he finds a way to break free of this cycle of it always being Groundhog Day. This is a very good metaphor for your everyday personal life, because if you think about it, we tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. If you reflect on your life I’m sure you can think of the many times you have lost or broken your phone, or the countless partners you have chosen who were never quite right, or just about anything in your life that you just can’t seem to get right. Why is that?

Well, first off, you can’t fix anything that you can’t see. If you’re not aware of this pattern, and I mean fully aware of it, then you can’t possibly fix it. There’s a difference between what you think you know, and what you actually know. You may “think,” you know why you keep doing the things you’re doing, but from my own personal journey, I’ve realized that thinking alone isn’t going to fix the problem. A lot of times, your thoughts are what stop you from being fully present in the moment. Your thoughts aka your fears are what cloud your judgement, and have you in this endless cycle of unhappiness; because what you end up doing is playing out your thoughts in your life, and therefore your fears end up becoming your reality. How do I fix that? How do I escape this “Groundhog Day” cycle of history repeating itself, and of me having a hard time being completely happy? The answer: 1. You need to work on being present in EVERY situation, or at least as much as possible. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the people in your life (good or bad), the opportunities around you, your thoughts, your feelings, the better you’ll be able to make healthier choices for yourself, and the better you’ll be able to find balance and/or happiness. 2. Once you are more present, and aware of yourself, the better you’ll be able to understand your past choices and accept them for what they are. You first need to accept the reality that you are in before you can change it. You MUST be honest about your reality, and who you are NOW in order to make a positive lasting change. If you’re always thinking about the person you should be, or the person you used to be, you will never be happy with the person you are now. You will never be able to change the things that are stopping you from being the person you know in your heart you could be because your head is telling you all the reasons why you can’t. “You can’t run like you used to, so why bother trying.” “You’re so fat, you need to be more like so and so, they have the life that you want.” Your thoughts or your Ego is what is stopping you by telling you stories about who you are, and what you can and cannot do. Even if you “try” to accomplish something in your life, like working out regularly, if you keep calling yourself “fat” for example, if you fail, the blow is easier on you because you have already told yourself you’re fat and so therefore you aren’t capable of regular workouts. You have told yourself this story about how you’re a fat person, and most likely you’re not even aware of all the choices you’ve made in your life that fulfill this story of you being a “fat” person. This is how you get stuck in your own personal hell, or Groundhog Day, and you can never escape it until you realize how you put yourself there in the first place.

It’s so funny, because in a way by writing this article, I’m also repeating some of the words I’ve said in articles that I’ve written in the past about chasing your dreams, letting go of your ego etc. I’ve touched on this subject many times, and each time I have learned something new, but not enough to break through the cycle. Life really does come full circle all the time, it’s as if a kid was scribbling a circle overlapping another circle over and over again. Even this article is coming full circle from the article I wrote at the beginning of 2018 about Resolutions. The only way to not repeat this circle, and to break the cycle is to pay attention to the lessons you face each and everyday. You may have a moment of clarity where everything makes sense, and you feel as though things are finally got things right, you’re on the right path, and then for some reason you lose it. You fall back into old habits. Maybe not to the same degree, but you still aren’t as far along in your progress as you would like to be. The key here is to not let this idea slow you down, because that is all it is. Only you have told yourself that what you are doing, who you are right now etc. isn’t enough. That is your Ego talking. Your ego is the voice in your head that is always talking to you, your ego is your thoughts, and your thoughts cause emotional responses that only reinforce your original thoughts. Both your emotions, and your thoughts will then dictate your choices, and your actions. You need to be mindful of this. This is the first step to breaking through a Groundhog Day scenario.

This may seem simple enough but it’s really not. The Ego does a really good job of convincing you that it is who you are. It convinces you that you are whatever you call yourself, fat, skinny, fit, pretty, ugly, old, poor. It also convinces you that what you “have” is a part of who you are. If you have a spouse, you’re married and that has a status, or if you own a house you are a homeowner, and again, that has a status. These ideas only feed your ego. Your ego will feed on anything in order to help define itself. I have cancer, I’m sick, therefore some people may use that to define themselves as a victim. Either way, having cancer is your reality, whether or not you are a victim is up to you. The situation which is cancer is neutral, it neither makes you more or less of a person. However, the stories that you tell yourself, about yourself do make you feel more or less of a person, but that doesn’t make it true. Also, the situation of cancer isn’t permanent. You can either overcome it, or succumb to it, again this does not say anything about you personally. It just means you’re human. Another example, what happens if you lose the house? Do you lose who you are too? Does it make you less of a person? For your ego, it does. Your ego will have a hard time with this loss, and it will therefore redefine itself through your thoughts and emotions maybe as a victim of loss. Your ego will separate you from the present, it will cloud your judgement, and make this loss a personal loss. You are not your house, your body, your career, and so on. Why? Because none of this shit matters when you die. All of these things are temporary, and when they’re gone the world still turns, and you are still you. All of those things can be taken away at any minute, and so you shouldn’t limit yourself to these things. They have value for sure, and they are a part of your life, but they aren’t who you are. They are a part of who you are, but they are subject to change, and when they do, for good or for bad, it shouldn’t change the person you are.

The problem is, to do that is difficult. You cannot simply remove your ego from yourself, it is a part of you. Especially when we live in a very egocentric world, it can be difficult to break free of this cycle of constantly needing more things, more money, more status, more of everything because your ego is never satisfied with the now. Once you have achieved a goal, or something good has come into your life, it is very easy to then slip back into the cycle of looking forward to the next big thing instead of being appreciative of what is happening now. This is unconsciousness. Never being present. Always looking to the future for more, or dwelling on the past. You are never satisfied with who you are now, because who you are now is never good enough. You are living in a constant state of scarcity or lack. And social media feeds your ego even more so than almost anything else we have in today’s society. It is a big reason why so many of us feel unhappy. First of all, most of us only post photos of the things we’re proud of, the things that make us feel good about ourselves. This boosts our ego, “look, I’m fit,” or “look I have a new house.” Then other people feed our egos by liking or commenting on our photos. This approval makes us feel good, our ego needs that and will then post more photos like it to get the energy it needs. However, as most of us know, none of that is real. A lot of it is filtered and it is only a fragment of our lives, so why do we put so much emphasis on it? Why do we care so much? Simple answer, our ego. Even negative feedback is still a reaction, your ego is still getting attention and will then fight back in order to reinforce itself. Either way your ego gets stronger. Basically, there is nothing wrong with wanting to share things on social media but be mindful of why you’re posting it in the first place. Do the likes and comments on your photos matter? Is it ever really satisfying? Because if it was, then we wouldn’t always be on it, always posting, always seeking more attention. Even if you don’t post much on social media, a lot of us use it to measure ourselves up against others. Again, this only keeps you in a state of lack, and it never moves you forward. You never grow, and you never end up where you want to be because you’re so focused on what you don’t have.

Like I said in my first article of 2018, “there’s no such thing as a life that’s better than yours,” Love Yourz by J.Cole. There is always going to be someone out there who seems to have more, who is more, but you will never know what you have unless you stop looking to others as a measure of your own success. “There’s beauty in the struggle,” again a quote from the same song. Basically, there’s beauty in the present, you just have to wake up and smell the roses. Be grateful for what you do have, appreciate the love in your life, and then share that with others. These are the things that are pushing you forward. The more you open your eyes to the things, the people, and the opportunities around you the happier you’ll be. It is so much easier to see the ego in others, and therefore it is much easier to pass along good advice. However, a lot of times those same people are a reflection of the ego in you. You tend to gravitate to the people who share the same thoughts and opinions as you, so a lot of times, those people also share a lot of the same fears as you. The ego that you see in them you can also recognize in yourself, that is why it’s so easy to see it in the other person. Hence the Alice in Wonderland quote from my first 2018 article “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” Usually the advice you give to others is the same advice you need to hear yourself, the problem is you were to blinded by ego to see it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all need to pay more attention, or else our egos and life in general are just going to get the best of us. I know this, because ever since I’ve made a conscious effort to be more present, I’ve realized how much of my life I haven’t been present. Always in my own head. I used to joke about it with family and friends that I sometimes live in La La Land. I never really thought of it as a problem, I just thought it was who I was. Alex just lives in her own world sometimes. But that’s not true. I’m not the only one who does this, and it doesn’t have to define me. Because living in a dream state, worrying about the future and fretting about the past alienates you from the present. Your thoughts can consume you and take you to a different place, and sometimes when you realize that you’ve left this planet for a second it’s too late. Something usually negative has happened to shock you awake, a fender bender, dropping your phone, breaking a glass, all usually occur because your head wasn’t in the game, you were distracted. More and more people are no longer living in the present. Distracted driving is a real thing. Our phones, social media, only feeds our thoughts, and fears. They help in keeping us distracted from the things happening right in front of us, instead we are worried about our next meeting, a deadline; constantly fixated on the things we need to do, to have, or accomplish. Fender benders, breaking your phone are just small examples, but a lot of the things that go wrong in our lives are because of us, whether you’re ready to admit that yet or not. Obviously, you don’t have control over everything that happens to you, but if you look back and you’re really honest about your mistakes, a lot of the time, it had nothing to do with you skills, or knowledge, it was mostly because your head wasn’t in the game. The moment you realize that “you” or the person who you think you are isn’t the problem, but the thoughts and fears that you constantly replay in your life are, that is when you can really make positive and lasting changes in your life. Why? Because the choices that you make out of presence, and mindfulness will come from a place of love and not fear. Presence allows you to separate your fears from reality, it stops you from personalizing everything in your life as a reflection of who you are for better or worse. Good things will happen, and bad things will happen, and only you can control your reaction to those things. However, the only way to make a positive change is to first take a moment, take a deep breath, try to calm yourself down, relax your mind from spinning out of control, and follow your heart. You know what to do, you know who to be, it’s your head that’s trying to tell you “protect” you with fear, but only your heart truly knows pure joy. Fear and joy live in the same space, the key is to live a life with courage. What is courage? Courage is accepting your fears, knowing that they exist and doing what makes you happy anyway. The more aware you are of your own thoughts and fears, the smaller they become, until they fully disappear. You can be and have whatever you want, you need to fully believe this by acknowledging and overcoming your fears. This is what I have been learning, and this is what I’ve been practicing and will continue to practice. This is something that you must strive to do always, if you don’t ever want to live in a Groundhog state again.

 

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Sir Winston Churchill


Never Assume, and ALWAYS listen

Today is the #Bellletstalk day, the campaign to help break down the stigmas of mental illness. I for one, greatly support this cause, and I would like to join the conversation. Quite a few people who are near and dear to me have suffered from some form of depression at some point in their life. I have learned a lot from trying to be a support to the people that I love the most who have suffered from depression. It was never easy, and it can definitely be heart breaking at times for sure, but if I could summarize what I’ve learned, I can break it down into two things:

1. Never assume that everyone is doing well, even when they say that they are doing well. Most people aren’t willing to tell you their troubles. Even if you are the closest of friends, or even family. A lot of times there is a lot of shame, and guilt that come with depression, and they may not be willing to burden you with their troubles. So, they carry this cross on their own, suffering in silence. If you suspect that something may be wrong, or that they aren’t as “good” as they say they are, then please ask again! Keep asking, and let them know that you care. Make them feel safe, this may mean that you have to reveal something about yourself in order for them to be able to feel as though they can reveal something about themselves. You need to keep the lines of communication open, let them know you’re always there for them.

2. Another major thing I’ve learned is this, if someone does finally come to you with their troubles, LISTEN!!!! Don’t start spewing advice, that’s not why they came to you in the first place. They don’t expect you to help them, because they know you can’t really help them in the way that you think you can. If they honestly believed you could make all their troubles go away like magic, they would have probably come to you sooner. In reality, all they’re looking for is for someone to really listen to them, and try to understand them on some level. They just need to be heard.

Too often, we are superficial in our conversations. Sometimes, I feel like we talk to each other for the sake of talking to one another, without really listening, or caring about what the other person has to say. This is not to say that we do this all the time, or that we do this on purpose. But sometimes when we say “Hi, how are you?” We don’t really mean it. We don’t really want to know the whole truth about how someone is actually doing. Maybe it’s because we don’t really know this person that well? Or, we don’t feel that close to them maybe? OR maybe we’re not prepared for the answer? Who knows. At the end of the day, when we ask it, we generally expect a generic answer like “I’m good,” or “I’m fine thank you.” We don’t really ask the question and hear a different answer, and if we do, it’s generally a surprise to us (unless that person is visibly upset). I hope today, that when you ask this question, you are genuine about it, and that you really probe the person to know more about their life, and how it’s actually going. Even if they are happy, or content, that’s fine, but stop and take the time to take an interest in someone else’s life for a change. You may learn something! It also shows that person that you really do care about them, and that’s how you can start to open up those lines of communication. That way if someone is truly suffering, they may now feel like they have someone to confide in, and that can make a world of difference!

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So spread the word and raise awareness today! Please join me in helping to break down the stigma of mental illness, by starting a conversation about it. Help me create a safe space for anyone who might be suffering to feel as though they can talk about it, and ask for help. One in five people suffer from some form of mental illness, that means that every one of us has been effected by mental illness in some way. There are many reasons why people suffer from depression, or any other form of mental illness, and since it’s so common there is really no point in judging someone for it. I know that this is a touchy subject, and it’s not easy to talk about, but the best thing we can do for one another is to pay attention to one another!! Take the time to LISTEN to one another and have meaningful conversations, that is how I think we can start to heal those who are suffering in silence.

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